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With 52,800 responsible and committed employees in more than 60 countries, Bouygues Construction designs, builds and operates projects across the building, civil works, energy and services sectors. One of the world’s largest construction firms and a leader in sustainable construction, the group sees shared innovation as its primary added value and ensures that health and safety are its top priorities, adopting a ‘zero accidents’ policy. 


Following a serious accident on one of its sites in France, Bouygues banned the use of compact angle grinders (115mm-150mm) in 2017. In line with this the firm set up a steering committee, which was tasked with defining the specification for hand held power tools to ensure all operators use the most efficient and appropriate tools, in compliance with Bouygues’ health and safety requirements.

Upon the appointment of the steering committee and the identification of the safety concerns around the use of compact angle grinders on site, the group invited tenders from manufacturers to develop a prototype that met its strict safety requirements. These included features such as compulsory two-handed operation, non-removable safeguard, an additional safeguard cover and anti-kickback function. Additionally, a non-removable side handle and electric brake function were required. 

The committee selected FEIN’s proposal, which met the precise technical specifications and guaranteed a tool that met Bouygues Construction’s health and safety standards.

The dangers associated with angle grinders

According to RoSPA (The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents), angle grinders are classified amongst the most dangerous tools in industry, ranking third most dangerous, with 5,400 injuries recorded annually. Further to this, HSE (Health and Safety Executive) revealed that in 2020-21 alone, the UK construction sector saw 39 fatal injuries and, in 2019, over a fifth (22%) of fatal accidents at work in the EU were as a result of losing control of a machine, tool or transport/handling equipment. 

The following sources of danger are amongst the most common when operating angle grinders/cut-off machines:

  • The wheel guard is not mounted, the grinding wheel breaks and the fragments injure the user
  • Working with one hand on the machine/the user holds machine with only one hand, which is the cause of around 40% of accidents
  • A kick-back of the grinding wheel blocks, causing the machine to suddenly jump away from the work piece, resulting in danger/risk of an accident

The consequences of these dangers include:

  • Serious injury to the operator
  • Liability to the employer 
  • Loss of productivity
  • Long term effects/injury to the operator

FEIN’s solution

In May 2022 the much-anticipated cordless 18v Protago high-safety angle grinder, which will be available to the wider market from July 2022, was unveiled in the UK. 

The Protago’s non-removeable wheel guard protects users from flying fragments, while users are unable to operate the high-safety angle grinder with one-hand due to an integrated ‘AutoStop’ dead man’s switch and permanently mounted non-removeable additional handle, which only enables two-hand operation. Upon one hand being removed, power to the tool will automatically disable; while its anti-kickback function detects any sudden movements, such as loss of control, automatically shutting off.

The Protago is already making an impression on the sector as the recipient of a prestigious Red Dot Design Award, winning “best of the best” in the tools category, as a result of its patented technology which is expected to considerably change how angle grinders are operated globally. 

The tool exceeds strict occupational safety requirements and comes with several new market leading built-in features that have been developed with a primary focus on health and safety. As well as the non-removable wheel guard, this includes an additional six-position non-removable adjustable side handle that enables flexible working in compact spaces, and the newly-developed enhanced anti-kickback detection function. 

To select the most suitable handle positions for the grinder and the user, FEIN used the Ironhand glove for testing purposes. This method was used to ensure the operator had ease of use when applying pressure to the dead man’s switch, while reducing fatigue. The Ironhand system gave live feedback which assisted FEIN in the development of the handle - a method which has never been used previously in tool design. The two-layered system comprises: a five fingered glove, five pressure sensors, a cord for tendons and data transmission, a backpack with servomotors and battery, plus a remote for operator control. 

In addition to these new features, the Protago is also integrated with an ergonomic grip, plus electronic overload protection and brake, as well as the FEIN PowerDrive brushless motor, which is completely encapsulated to protect the motor from excess debris. The PowerDrive motor is also 30% more efficient to that of a 1,100-watt corded machine, ensuring exceptional performance when working with metal.

Benefits of the Protago

Thanks to the Protago high-safety angle grinder, Bouygues has been able to revolutionise safety on site. Key benefits of the Protago include:

  • Protecting the health of employees by significantly reducing the number of workplace accidents on site
  • Driving efficiency and reducing costs, due to less accidents on site which ultimately saves time and money
  • Improving productivity, due to the reduction in workplace accidents
  • Reducing operator fatigue and lessening unnecessary pressure applied to the machine, while still operating as normal for all grinding applications
  • Almost fully eliminating the risks associated with the improper operation of angle grinders

The Red Dot Design Award jury statement said: “The Protago cordless angle grinder impresses with its high-quality design and the well thought-out functionality of its innovative, six-way adjustable auxiliary handle. Its clearly structured design conveys power and embodies an impressive advancement. With its exclusive two-hand operation and a safety hood that can no longer be removed by the user, this angle grinder sets new standards in terms of safety and ergonomics for such a tool.” 

Philippe Fornage, Senior Environment Health and Safety Leader at Bouygues, said: “Bouygues Construction has had an ambitious health and safety prevention policy for 20 years. Our most important assets are the people who work on our sites. We want to offer them the best working conditions and the best tools on the market, so I am extremely happy with the collaboration between our R&D team and FEIN, as all of our colleagues will soon be equipped with this very high-safety angle grinder specially designed for them - offering optimal safety.” 

Nathan Ford of FEIN UK said: “Having worked in the industry for the past 15 years, I have seen numerous products launched and come to market. For me, the Protago is by far the most exciting new product I’ve seen. The Protago removes nearly all of the risks around the use of grinders and ensures the safety of the operator can’t be compromised. With the Protago, it’s virtually impossible to be complacent. It’s a high-performance machine, with maximum safety to allow excellent work progress in the safest way possible.”



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